Of the many hats that public relations professionals wear in today’s digital world, one of the most prominent seems to be that of technologist. PR and social media pros often must find new tools to reach their communities and figure out how those tools fit into the overall communications strategy.

One of the essential, no-so-new tools that PR pros should consider is Storify, a platform that lets anyone turn what people post on social media into compelling stories. Storify lets us collect the best photos, video, tweets and more to publish them as simple, beautiful stories that can be embedded anywhere. Here’s an example from ACCU weather, which created “Floridians Feel Isaac’s Effects” last week:

Storify entry for Hurricane Isaac

Storify has found its place in the newsroom, and serves as a great tool for many journalists, but goes untapped for much of the PR industry.

Having used it in many different ways in the past for my role as community manager for MBA@UNC, here are a few reasons why I think Storify is a must-use tool for PR pros everywhere.

We’re Storytellers

For better or for worse, PR professionals are storytellers. It’s our job to communicate our organization’s story to our audience through any media channel possible.
The way we tell that story has evolved from relying on external media placements such as newspapers, magazines and television, to using the power of 140 characters and other social networks to communicate directly with our community.

Storify allows us to extend our storytelling abilities by creating stories not through media or our own voices on social media but through a crowd-sourced story that brings together many voices into one to tell a story.

Not only are these stories more interesting because of the differing contributions, but this allows your brand to build trust and credibility because of your willingness to let others take part in your story rather than you controlling the messaging from the get-go. Ultimately, Storify allows you to tell a story more creatively—a story that’s more authentic than previously possible.

It’s Interactive and Social

Possibly the best part of Storify is that it is a living, breathing timeline of conversation and content. You are able to update your Storify in real-time, giving your community a reason to continue to interact with the story you are providing, rather than a one-and-done experience. On top of that real-time interactivity, Storify is social to its core.

To build off of the previous point when involving your community, Storify allows you to alert those whose content you are including in the story. In addition, all of the content is embedded which gives readers the option to click through to the original source. This allows you to create a dynamic and interactive experience that mainstream storytelling cannot provide.

Examples of How Storify Has Worked

I have used Storify for the MBA@UNC program where I document our immersion weekends that take place every quarter in a different city around the world. These weekends are closed off to the public, but provide a great deal of insight into the value of our MBA program. I’ve been recapping the weekends using Storify and allowing prospective students to walk in the shoes of students and see what our academic experience is like.

We’ve been able to promote this through social media as well as in our communication with thousands of prospective students. Ultimately, this has led to several students deciding to enroll in our program because of the immersion experience.

The White House has a very active Storify account where they document behind-the-scenes content, events and campaign initiatives. It allows allows their audience to get an inside look into the President and White House staff – which we all know is not easy to get. It has has allowed the public to connect closely, not only with the President but with his staff and the people that really make the ship go. In an election year, creating this sentiment is a top priority.

Storify home page for the White House

How to Involve Your Community

Nearly 100 percent of social media users share a common goal: To have their voices heard. By using Storify, you will be able to source the social media posts that you want to use from your community and amplify your community member’s voices in a way that will get them involved and a part of your brand’s story.

Getting your community involved with the execution of your storytelling further develops that two-way relationship and gives the community members a sense of empowerment when relating to your brand. This type of connection yields results in an unprecedented way.

Here are four more examples of how PR people can use Storify:

  • To share news, videos and tweets during a conference.
  • To promote an upcoming event. You can feature photos, videos, tweets and other content from speakers and participants and create excitement for the event by inviting them to add to the story.
  • To showcase your client’s company. Ask the CEO, managers and employees to contribute. Take readers on a visual tour.
  • Ask your customers to explain or demonstrate how they use your products or services.

Pull your friends and followers to your story from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn groups, press releases, your website and your blog.

Just remember though, Storify is a tool in a much larger toolkit. It allows us to support the stories that we are trying to tell through the public eye, but it still takes strategy to create that initial message. In the end though, Storify allows you to extend that messaging through the voice of your community to create a dynamic and more social experience that drives business results and communication goals.